“What about deportation?” asked tea party darling Michelle Bachmann. “I believe we should uphold the laws of the land, which does include deportation.”
“Part of (the solution) would have a real fence,” declared Herman Cain. “Twenty feet high, with barbed wire — electrified — with a sign on the other side that says it can kill you. It’ll be in English and Spanish.”
“The answer is self-deportation, which is people decide they can do better by going home because they can’t find work here because they don’t have legal documentation to allow them to work here,” the eventual GOP nominee Mitt Romney added.
Predictable payback came at the polls last November when 71 percent of Hispanic and Latino voters supported President Obama. Just 27 percent backed Romney, down from the 44 percent margin President George W. Bush enjoyed in 2004.
It was a stinging rebuke of Republican rhetoric from the fastest growing segment of American voters.
“The conservative movement should have particular appeal to people in minority and immigrant communities,” lamented Senator Marco Rubio, the Republican son of Cuban immigrants, “Republicans need to work harder than ever to communicate our beliefs to them.”
“The country is changing demographically,” explained former Secretary of State Colin Powell, another Republican son of immigrants. “When we see that in one more generation, the minorities of America, African-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, and Asia-Americans will be the majority of the country, you can’t go around saying we don’t want to have a solid immigration policy.”
Realizing yesterday’s inflammatory words have political consequences today, the GOP is scrambling to repair the self-inflicted damage done to their party’s image among immigrant constituencies.
Rubio was recently joined by seven Senate colleagues including John McCain, Lindsay Graham and four leading Democrats to unveil their Bipartisan Framework for Comprehensive Immigration Reform.
“Our legislation (will) secure the border, modernize and streamline our current legal immigration system, while creating a tough but fair legalization program,” said a statement from the “Gang of Eight.”
“First, Americans support it in poll after poll,” commented Sen. Robert Menendez, a Democrat working with the Republicans. “Secondly, Latino voters expect it. Thirdly, Democrats want it. And fourth, Republicans need it.”
The plan would require those here illegally to register with the government, pass a background check, pay a fine for entering the U.S. illegally, pay back taxes, learn English and civics, and demonstrate a work history. Only then would they be permitted to go to the back of the green card line and wait their turn. Eventually they could apply for citizenship.
Meantime, employers would be permitted to hire immigrants if they are unable to recruit an American to fill a position. All of these reform provisions are contingent on securing the border first.
Rep. Raul Labrador predicts the pathway to citizenship will lead to more Democratic voters. He’d prefer a plan that permits immigrants to stay as guest workers.
“Anybody who’s clamoring for citizenship is looking for voters, and they’re looking for union members,” claims Labrador. “They’re not looking for a policy that actually strengthens the United States.”
Other prominent Republicans disagree with the Idaho tea partier.
“Almost 70 percent of Americans believe that something has to be done to fix our immigration system,” wrote Rosario Marin, the Mexican-born Treasury secretary under George W. Bush. “They believe that those 11 or 12 million people, who are here without their proper documents, should be legalized one way or another and be provided some kind of path to citizenship.”
Kevin Foley is a public relations executive, author and writer who lives in Kennesaw.